Close decisions

Every bridge event has a thousand stories waiting to be told, and never are they more poignant than when survival hangs on a slim thread.

Here is one hand from a past World Championships where England defeated China by just one IMP to take out the Women’s title and in the Seniors, the margin was twice that – Japan defeated the USA by two IMPs.

Dealer East, EW vul.

          S A962
          H Q9854
          D 854
          C 3
WEST                EAST
S 54                S 873
H JT32              H AK76
D AJT6              D K7
C Q87               C A954
          S KQJT
          H - 
          D Q932
          C KJT62

In the Women’s, the Chinese East opened a weak notrump, but North-South finished up making 2S. At the other table, Nevena Senior for England opened a normal 1C. Over that, what action should Qian Liu have taken as South?

A takeout double of clubs is out of the question with this shape. What of the other common interpose - an overcall? That normally shows a 5-card suit, but at the 1-level, an excellent 4-carder may be a candidate. South’s spades certainly have quality and over a 1C opening, a 1S overcall has the benefit of depriving the opponents of a level of bidding space.

Sure enough, Liu ventured 1S. Over that, West made a negative double, showing the other major and responding points. North then bid a pre-emptive 3S, propelled by the mistaken belief that there was a 9-card spade fit. That was a level too high; 4 IMPs to England.

Meanwhile in the Seniors’ final, when Masayuki Ino opened 1C with the East hand, Billy Eisenberg bided his time with the South cards, passing. West responded 1H, North passed, and East raised to 2H. What call should South now make?

This was South’s moment to come in, with a takeout double. West passed, North bid 2S, and East competed with 3H. Eisenberg showed restraint by passing, while his partner Sam Lev tried his luck with a double, this one for penalties. The complete auction:

Abe   Lev   Ino   Eisenberg
            1C    Pass
1H    Pass  2H    Dble
Pass  2S    3H    Pass 
Pass  Dble   All pass

North’s opening lead was the C3, taken by the CA. Then a round of trumps was drawn with the HA, and it was no surprise to declarer when South showed out.

Next, a spade was led from dummy, won by South who cashed the CK, on which North discarded a diamond. South then led the CJ. What message does this card carry?

When leading a suit for partner to ruff, lead a HIGH card to ask partner to lead back the higher of the other two suits (trumps are discounted), or a LOW card to ask partner to lead back the lower of the other two suits. The lead of the CJ asked partner to lead back a spade.

Accordingly, after ruffing the club, North led a low spade away from his ace, which South won as expected. South now led the C10, ruffed with the H3, and overruffed with the H8. The contract was already one down and these were the remaining cards: 

          S A9
          H Q9
          D 85
          C -
WEST                EAST
S -                 S 8
H JT                H K76
D AJT6              D K7
C -                 C -
          S JT
          H - 
          D Q93
          C 2

North led the SA to force West to ruff with the H10. Now West’s only heart was the HJ so when that was led, North could cover with the HQ, driving out the HK and thereby promoting the H9 as a winner, for two down.